Monday, July 16, 2012

P.O.G.O.s Are The Ultimate Compliments

Just Chillin'
Having late night talks with your roommate is always a great way to bond. However, these late night talks don’t make it easy to get up in the morning. Yes, it was a little hard to drag myself out of bed and get dressed, but I don’t regret staying up so late. Talks like these are really great ways to make close friends – I promise. This morning started like any weekday would; I ate breakfast and walked to class. The only thing different about it was the biscuit with apple jelly I had this morning. It was absolutely delicious.
Anyway, class today was mainly lectures that focused on the chemistry behind retro viruses and why it is hard to find a drug and/or vaccine for it. A lot of the concepts were completely new to me, but I caught on pretty quickly. I had no idea that monocytes and eosinophil were immune system cells. I also found out the options to stop diseases like HIV/AIDS from spreading. Since it uses a host cell to turn their RNA to DNA, chemists can stop this by inhibiting a certain aspect of this process; such has inhibiting CCR5, the proteases, or other proteins to completely halt the multiplication of the HIV virus. This is a lot harder than it sounds, but so far scientists have created many ways to stop AIDS with the newest one using AZT to block the transformation of RNA to DNA.
Later on, we started discussing clinical trials for drugs. All drugs have to go through Phase 1 for safety, Phase 2 for effectiveness, and Phase 3 for a trial on a larger scale to decide whether a drug passes or not. Of course, clinical trials call for clinical volunteers. We spent the rest of the time discussing which people shouldn’t volunteer, who could, and who will need assistance. For example, we went over a case of a pregnant teenage girl who wanted to try a drug in Phase 2. This is especially risky since she is young, pregnant, and an immigrant. After going over the many problems this girl could possibly have, all of the groups had to make their own consent form for the girl, stating the risks, benefits, and rights. Overall, it was a simple task and we nearly got all the necessary facts for the girl. I think this exercise was a great way to help us understand what clinical trial patients go through, as well as what’s required of the drug companies performing the trials.
Nowadays, nearly all clinical trials are done efficiently and humanely; however a few decades ago, it was not required to be done that way. For instance, when the U.S. did trials for baby food, they decided it was best to test it on African babies. Since the African mothers were not given exact directions for feeding their children, many of the babies died. This is obviously horrible, and I can’t believe the testers did this without properly informing the Africans. It is as if they were just animals you can test whenever you want. This makes me grateful for the improved system of today.
My Arête class this week is Glee, a singing class. When I arrived, I was a little nervous since I am not much of singer. However, my nerves quickly went away when I saw that everyone there was really cool. The teachers are also really nice and actually let you sing in any way you like, unlike Choirs where you all have to sound synchronized and exactly alike. I really enjoy this kind of freedom, and I am looking forward to this weeks’ Arête.
My shirt before the blue
Once Arête was over, I head to Hank Ingram to make tie-dye t-shirts. I have only made one before in my entire life so I was excited to create my own shirt. Unfortunately, the beautiful image in my head did not come out as nice. I added too much blue so the whole shirt is pretty much a solid dark color. I really hope the final product turns out better than how it looks now.

Tonight, we also had our daily proctor meeting where we talked about our day and how we felt about it. These meetings are truly great ways to bond – especially with P.O.G.O.s to pass around. P.O.G.O.s is positive gossip written in letter form that someone can write to anyone in the group. Tonight I had about three, and all three were really thoughtful. It is really nice to know that you mean so much to people. P.O.G.O.s really are the ultimate compliments - I feel so loved. In all honesty, my proctor group is really the best group of people I have ever met. I can’t wait for our Proctor Night tomorrow!

Fast and Blurry Day

Class today was such a blur for me. It felt so slow when I was in it, but now that I'm out of class, I feel like it was so fast. Perhaps I'm feeling like this because I woke up at 6:20 AM to play basketball at the recreation center with some of "the guys".

Anyway, today's class was mostly more information and lectures about the three religions' (Islam, Christianity, and Judaism) scriptures. I found it interesting how the bible has so many more books that weren't included in it. What if there was crucial information about Christianity that wasn't put in the book, because a few "leaders" more than a thousand years ago said not to put those books in it? I was also puzzled to find out that the Old Testament books in Christianity differ in the order of the books compared to the Jewish Old Testament book order. Scholars say Christians changed the order of the books to better suit the story of the coming of Jesus Christ--that the Old Law wasn't working and that a New Covenant was coming. I feel as if by the end of this class, my whole perspective on religion will change, which I feel like a little bit of it has already. Well, I guess that's why I chose this class, right? I needed, and still need, a better understanding of religion-- not only to understand and discover myself, but to understand others.

A funny but embarrassing moment in class today was when I was the last one to come into the room after our ten minute break. As I returned into the room, all the lights were off, and I didn't see any of the eleven other students, my T.A., nor my teacher there. Befuddled by why this was happening and wondering if I entered the wrong classroom, I said, "What?" Suddenly, everybody revealed themselves behind the door and to the right where I couldn't see any of them. I can't lie; they got me.

My new Arete class is Stage Combat! I know it's going to be a great week, because of this class. I always wanted to fake-punch people, and I'm definitely going to do that plenty of times when I'm back home with my friends.

To be honest, I feel like barely anything has happened today. All I did was tie-dye a white t-shirt and take a trip to CVS. I guess because of this Ivy League Connection trip, taking "breaks" and "relaxing" a little bit makes me feel as if I wasted my day. After all, I only have less than two weeks until I'm back home! I need to make everyday count. I just wish the students here had more freedom to go wherever we want like the other programs, such as UPenn or Brown. Still, it's nice to be in an organized program and have the opportunity to do so many activities with so many different people.

Well, I'll end this second Monday with a picture of the night sky ready to take over. Good night.

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Week Two Has Begun

It was a little difficult for me to wake up this morning, but that's always the case with Mondays. Usually, one tends to sleep in a little later on the weekends so they have a hard time waking up at their normal, earlier time when Monday comes around. However, despite my difficulties I was still able to get up half an hour earlier than I was supposed to. 

When I had woken, I did all my normal morning rituals before heading to breakfast with my friends. I almost choked on my orange juice when Katherine made one of her famous silly faces. My friends Mason and Amanda playfully reprimanded me for not finishing all my food, and we all lingered in the commons area chatting a while before we parted ways. 

Thankfully, it was not as rainy here today as it was the past week. The sun's rays beamed down on us intensely, and the humidity was so thick it was like you were swimming in it. I stepped out of the commons area and lifted my head slightly to feel the sun on my body. I walked with a group of people past the statues of children playing and the green landscape to my classroom. It was a lot colder in there than it was outside. I really hate how the inside of the Vanderbilt is so much colder than the outside, but I suppose it is better than not having and air conditioning at all. 

We started off our day writing for about 20 minutes in our journals, and then we talked about common house tropes in mysteries. I learned that houses will usually have a recurring theme in mystery stories: they will always be run down, abandoned, secluded, etc. We spent a majority of the classroom discussing house tropes and then we listened to the story of a young boy who stumbled upon an abandoned home deep in a forest with his friends. They each proclaimed that they wanted  to enter the house, and being boys, they did so even though none of them really wanted to go in. 

When the boys entered the house, they discovered that all the rooms were packed with old furniture. Random items were scattered throughout the house. They found old newspaper, letters, and clothing in the closets and drawers. Many of the doors in the house were locked or had furniture blocking them, "as though they were trying to prevent something from coming out." 

All this was a radio recording and was based on the true story of a journalist, who eventually became obsessed with the house at a young age. He and his friends wondered what could have happened to the owners on the house ( who he discovered had the surname Mason from the letters) to make them leave without taking any of their stuff. Being young boys, the journalist and his friends conjured up tales of horror to explain the mysterious old house. 

As the protagonist of the story gets older, he uses technology to aid him in his search for answers. He does research online and finds a distant relative of the Masons, a great-great-grandaughter named Samantha. The protagonist gives him the box of stuff he collected from the old house and asks her for some more information on the Masons. " No one will tell me anything," Samantha confessed when he asked her what the story was behind the house. " They either don't know or they don't want to tell me."

Eventually, the protagonist does discover what happened to the Masons. " The children didn't want the house," and old friend of the Masons told him. " After the Masons died, their was a property dispute that the kids did not want to get involved in. They decided to just burn the house with everything in it in a practice fire for the trainees at the fire department." The protagonist was disappointed at this discovery, but he was relieved to finally know the truth.

After listening to the broadcast, we gathered our The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes book and walked to Sweet CeCe's for some frozen yogurt while we read. The combination of frozen yogurt and reasonably cool air from the air conditioner made for a very nice reading environment. I ate my chocolate yogurt with peanut M&Ms as I read one of Sherlock's crazy adventures with Dr. Watson. 

I was really excited after class had ended because I have fencing this week for Arete. We learned some basic fencing positions and I got to hit a teacher with a saber, which was pretty cool. I liked the feeling of having a weapon in my hand and hitting someone who I knew could not feel my blows. It made me realize how skilled and graceful one has to be as a fencer. 

Week one has officially ended and week two has just started. We have a lot of events planned for the week, and I am excited for all of them. Now that I have made regular friends and am comfortable here, I look forward to everyday. There is never a dull moment here at VSA. 

Operation Overwhelm

The sun was shining through the closed blinds as I got up this morning. It was a beautiful, warm morning and was the same as any other. I’m kind of getting tired of the same breakfast everyday: eggs, bacon, and hash browns. I really hope they switch it up a bit, or I’ll settle for cereal every morning to eat a little healthier.

We began our week of Pharmacology class with some lectures. Lectures in the morning aren’t the best idea, and we learned by the end of class today that we are more alert in the afternoon. So next time, we decided to have discussions in the morning to keep us on our toes, then lectures after lunch. We began reviewing the social impacts and regulations of drugs, then went more in-depth with HIV/AIDS. AIDS originated from a transmission of the virus from a chimpanzee to a human.  Did you know that HIV/AIDS is the sixth leading cause of death of people ages 25-44 in the United States and in 2008, 2.1 million children under the age of 15 had HIV/AIDS? To brighten things up a bit, early detection of HIV can prevent AIDS. But, I am still astounded by the large number of children who have this terrible virus. Three drugs are needed to treat HIV, and developing drugs takes at least 15 years. 

Preview days at Vanderbilt are the best. They have a whole assortment of food. From salmon to pizza, and a whole dessert bar, you will definitely find something to cater to your taste buds.  I especially enjoyed their pecan pie. Boy, was it delicious!

After a wonderful meal, we began class with a discussion on informed consent.  I acquired much knowledge about those papers that look like you HAVE to sign, when in reality it is not even a legal document. An informal consent is rather a process that acknowledges your respect for the people signing it. As a group, we created our own informed consent on a hypothetical situation. It involved a 15-year-old pregnant girl who is a first generation immigrant, high-school dropout student, and who lives in a poor rural area. She is told by her mother, who heard from her neighbor, that there is a clinical trial going on to stop the bleeding during her pregnancy. We discussed the problems that would arise when presenting an informed consent form that is written in a 15th grade level to this young girl. To combat the problems, we created an informed consent form that catered to the young girl’s needs. In it, she was informed on what’s going to happen during the clinical trial, the risks, benefits, alternatives, her confidentiality, and compensation. It was fun writing out our own form, making sure every detail was mentioned, and that she was able to easily understand it. Only 22% of all people who take informed consent forms actually read it.  To be honest, I don’t usually read every word written. For one, it’s hard to understand and it’s very long. But even if you sign a form, you have the right to leave the trial or whatever it is at any time with no reason at all.  I was amazed to learn all these new facts that I can apply to my life.

I learned about many informed consent behaviors that turned disastrous. For example, the US sent over baby formula to Africa so they can test it. It’s not their country, so they didn’t really care. Of course, many African mothers gave it to their babies, but they weren't informed that they needed to use sterile water. As a result, many babies died. It’s very unfortunate to know that they would do this to a certain population. Back then, the US had many prejudices against certain people. I’m very thankful there are more regulations and laws today that prevent things like this to happen again.

After a very overwhelming,but informative Pharmacology session, I headed over to my Arête class, fencing. It was really something different for me. I am not a very athletic person, but I enjoyed it. We learned how to hold the sword, how are stances are, and how to move forward and backward. I’m excited and scared at the same time for when we actually get to fight each other. Fortunately, we have padding and a helmet on, so that should calm my nerves.

Free time passed like a breeze. I take advantage of this hour everyday beginning to blog. I then headed to dinner and ate some cheesy, meaty lasagna and a piece of carrot cake. My friends and I rushed over to the tie dye area, because it was first come first serve for the white t-shirts. We were the first ones to get there and got to work! It was my first time making my own tie-dye shirt, and it was pretty fun. I hope the paint stains on my fingers pay off! Since it was also SOFT night, we walked to CVS to grab a few things and dropped by Ben and Jerry's. I bought a delicious iced coffee. I honestly don't know if coffee works for me. Anyways, when we arrived back on campus, I immediately went to the laundry room. I was able to use a washer right away. It's really a madhouse down there, knowing 150 students need to use it. Since this is more of a summer camp, I don't get a whole college experience but I do experience dorm life. Everyday we have many activities, so our schedule is tight and packed. Times are strict, and there's not too much freedom. Nevertheless, I still do experience many aspects of college. From being away from home to folding my own laundry, I'm getting a little taste of it. 

My proctor group is really adding to this wonderful experience, and I can't wait for our proctor group night tomorrow! More bonding, more fun!